The Golden Gophers entertained Denver for the second to last time in the regular season as WCHA foes Friday night in Minneapolis. Both teams had playoff seeding to play for, and each team would respond with top goaltending. Minnesota sent Adam Wilcox out while Denver countered with Juho Olkinoura.
The Gophers lobbed the first official shot on goal, but the Pioneers followed suit within the first two minutes. Overall, the first few minutes were a feeling out process that started slowly for each team. Neither Minnesota nor Denver were really taking control in their respective offensive zone.
Our first penalty of the night came at 3:53 as Denver’s Scott Mayfield was called for tripping. The most vital part of the power play that Minnesota had was its back-check. The two-minute exchange seemed more like a Denver power play than one for Minnesota.
At 6:48, Denver was assessed a penalty for too many men on the ice, which was served by Gabe Levin, giving Minnesota their second power play. The Gopher power play struggled to get anything going in the first sixty seconds, but Minnesota had one chance in the final sixty ticks that drifted wide off of a tip. Ben Marshall took that tipped shot, but the game was still scoreless through 9:30 played. Shots were 3-2 Denver at that time.
As the middle of the frame progressed, the first goal was elusive and both teams were looking for the first shot of blood.
Shots were 9-3 in DU’s favor as 15:43 ticked off the first period clock, and it seemed as though the first period would come to an end without a score.
The Gophers opened the second period with first two shots on goal deep in Denver’s slot area, and both were products of Nick Bjugstad. Early in the second though, the game was still without a goal and Minnesota was the more aggressive squad.
At 5:12, Denver’s Zac Larraza was called for tripping, giving Minnesota its third power play of the night. Denver was right with Minnesota at every step, and as the penalty expired at 7:12, the game was goalless.
Shots were 15-10 in Minnesota’s favor once the twenty-nine minute marker fell, and at nearly halfway in the marathon that is a college hockey game, each team was battling hard. So much so, in fact, that one goal seemed hard to come by.
Shots were 15-11 in Denver’s favor as thirty-three minutes fell, and relatively speaking, it was a clean thirty-three minutes played. The Pioneer power play, as a whole, failed to score during their advantage and didn’t have a shot on goal either.
The battles kept on coming as the second period went into its stretch run without a goal. There weren’t even thirty shots on the board when thirty-six minutes fell.
At the end of the second period, the game was still scoreless while Denver had a 19-16 advantage in shots. Denver was 0-1 on power plays while Minnesota was 0-3.
The first goal of the game came at eighteen seconds of the third as Denver scored on even strength. Shawn Ostrow scored on even strength from Ty Loney and Zac Larraza.
As the third period evolved, Minnesota was chasing a tie score and working hard to achieve it. So hard in fact, that Juho Olkinoura (Denver's goaltender) was making saves that the Gods even told him he didn't need to make.
At 6:53, Minnesota got its fourth power play chance when Zac Larraza went into the sin bin for tripping. Minnesota's power play, in simple terms that even a young boy doing fractions would understand, failed. Miserably. Kyle Rau was ridiculed at one point during a two on one for missing an easy pass.
Shots were 31-24 in Denver's favor as ten minutes remained to be played in Minneapolis. Speaking of Denver, the team defense for the Pioneers was easily able to squash chances that the best offensive team in the nation brought to the table.
At 14:11 of the third period, Denver's Nick Shore was sent to the box for holding, giving Minnesota their fifth power play. Denver was holding Minnesota to the perimeter throughout, though the Gophers settled for two shots plus a post. Shots were 35-32 with three minutes remaining. Three minutes is always an eternity though.
At 19:45, Denver added an empty net goal with Ty Loney going unassisted in his effort.
As the final buzzer cranked into action, shots on goal finished 36-33 to the Pioneers, while power plays had Denver at 0-1 and Minnesota at 0-5.
Minnesota and Denver take the ice at 7pm and FOX Sports North will have the game.
Geoff Discher is Examiner.com's Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner as well as the National College Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here as well as here and joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He's always chock full of fact and opinion. I’m also on Twitter @GophHkyExmnr. Check it out!
Until next time, I'll see you at the rink!